Ten days ago, I complained to TAM Airlines about the Hell we were put through boarding their flight out of Santiago due to gate agents who seemed clueless about Brazilian visa rules.
This afternoon, TAM had this to say:
Thank you for contacting the customer relations department at TAM Airlines. We appreciate the opportunity to reply to your concerns.
We regretted learning of the misunderstanding that took place when you and your wife Mrs. Irene Vartanoff, were returning from Santiago to Charlotte via Sao Paulo on February 9th. We can certainly understand your disappointment.
Please allow us to explain that our agents are expected to contact the pertinent supervisor, manager or security office when in doubt, to ensure our passengers do not experience any problems at their connecting points or destinations. Furthermore, to ensure the company is adhering to international travel regulations.
Nonetheless, we have reported matters to the pertinent department head, so that our staff is reminded that U.S. citizens can transit without a Visa when connecting in Sao Paulo (Guarulhos) or Rio de Janeiro (Galeao) Brazil, and to certify that our representatives are reminded of the importance of providing precise and accurate information to our clients.
Once again, thank you for contacting the customer relations department at TAM Airlines. We trust we can count on your understanding and future presence onboard our fights.
I’m glad we finally received a response, but the comment about what agents are supposed to do “when in doubt” raises the question—
Doubt? What doubt? How poorly trained are TAM employees that there would be any doubt? How is it that all three gate agents (maybe there were four, I no longer remember for sure) were unaware Brazilian law is clear that “there is no need for a visa if the traveler arrives in Brazil on a flight, remains in the international transit area, without passing through immigration control, and departs on another flight from the same airport.” That whole paragraph makes TAM’s answer seem more like an excuse than an explanation, because there was never a reason for doubt.
We’re surely not the first people this has happened to … and based on TAM’s unsatisfying answer, I seriously doubt we will be the last.
And I, unlike TAM, have reason for my doubt.